Bee Venom Allergy Tests

Two types of tests can help predict whether someone will have bee venom allergy to future bee stings. Neither test is perfect.


Are there any tests available that help predict allergic reactions to bee stings?

Dr. Greene's Answer

Two types of tests can help predict whether someone will have a bee venom allergy to future bee stings. Neither test is perfect, but each can be useful as a supplement to the other. Skin testing is clearly positive in the majority of patients with a convincing history. On the other hand, up to 46% of non-allergic individuals have somewhat positive skin tests (Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 76:803, 1985).

Patients with a history of bee-sting related anaphylaxis and a negative skin test should have blood testing as described below and a repeat skin test in 3-6 months (Allergy Principles and Practice, Mosby 2003, Allergy Asthma Immunol Res 2013; 5(3):129–137). Skin testing must be done carefully to prevent systemic reactions during testing in extremely sensitive individuals. It is important to be aware that the degree of positivity of a skin test does not reliably correlate with the severity of the allergic reaction.

A blood test called the RAST test has only about 20% false-negative and false-positive results. Like with skin testing, the level of positivity of the test gives no information about the degree of allergy present.

Neither form of testing is indicated following local or large local reactions alone. A sting on the forehead with swelling of the eyelids is a large local reaction, while a sting on the foot with swelling of the eyelids is a systemic reaction. Large local reactions are rarely serious and rarely portend future severe allergies. Systemic allergic reactions, though, are present and future warning signs.

Treatment of allergies includes preventing stings, carrying epinephrine such as an Epi-pen (that should be injected following a sting whenever there are any systemic symptoms such as dizziness, swelling of the lips or tongue, or difficulty breathing), corticosteroids, antihistamines, and/or possibly allergy shots. Allergy shots can often desensitize people to bee stings. They are usually reserved for those who have had both a systemic allergic reaction and either positive skin or positive RAST tests. (If the tests were both negative, one wouldn’t know which type of bee allergy shots to give).

Last medical review on: January 31, 2015
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Recent Comments

My daughter had a blood test done for stinging insects. She had one reaction (hives over body) over 5 years ago. She tested at 3.77 value for Yellow Jackets. We do carry an epi pen. Wondering how at risk she is for anaphlaxis. We are anticipating a vacation next summer where emergency care is not close by. Thank you.

I’m allergic to walnuts and pecans where my mother is allergic to see stings. My daughter (3.5 yrs) has yet to be tested to see if she’s allergic to anything bUT the house we juse mover inot has a couple bees nests we’really trying to get rid of. How old should she be before we get her tested, is there a minimum age requirement?

my boyfriend got stung by a bee and he is swollen down his neck and it went up around his ear the actual sting is on his cheek and its red and hard what should we do should he go to the doctor? is he allergic?

Bee allergies can develop in people who have not been allergic in the past. A reaction like this might mean that the next sting will be even worse. Based on that, I would suggest he gets checked out. Be sure to ask the doctor if he should carry an epi-pen and if so, be sure to get instructions on how to use it.

Hope that helps,

I see this is an old post. I’m hoping discussion can still commence. What if my son(age 10) has never been stung, but both grandfathers have had anaphylactic reactions to bee and yellow jacket stings? They both carry epi-pens and the maternal grandpa takes allergy shots. Then should my son be tested for reaction to bee/yellow jacket stings? Would this show anything really?

If I were you I would get it checked out to see if he is allergic. My grandma was allergic and I figured out I was too this past month. I just relized it, when I had a severe allergic reaction. So if I were you I would get it checked out before anything bad happens.